Pollution highlights need for a bypass

INCREASINGLY high levels of air pollution are a major reason Cookstown needs a bypass, according to a top Council official.

While Cookstown has not yet exceeded government guidelines on air pollution, Environmental Health chief Mark Kelso believes it is only a matter of time.

During the last cold snap, Cookstown Council recorded very high levels of NO2 - a gas which is mainly derived from road transport emissions.

Mr Kelso said the levels had never exceeded those required to trigger an Air Quality Management Area which would require a specialised plan to deal with the problem.

“Air pollution from traffic is an increasing problem,” said Mr Kelso.

He said while Cookstown had not exceeded government levels it had come ‘on the verge of it’ and it highlighted the need for a bypass in Cookstown.

Mr Kelso explained that in cold weather, Nitrogen Dioxide emissions from vehicles and from electricity supplies tend not to disperse so easily and the pollution can be higher.

According to the Department of the Environment, ‘very high levels’ of pollution were recorded in Cookstown.

The DoE issued a warning and blamed the pollution on the build up of emissions from cars and home heating systems during the cold winter.

Cookstown Council has been lobbying for a bypass for many years and Mr Kelso believes the continuing rise in pollution from vehicles is a primary reason why the bypass should be funded as soon as possible.

Nitric oxide (NO) is mainly derived from road transport emissions and other combustion processes such as the electricity supply industry. NO is not considered to be harmful to health. However, once released to the atmosphere, NO is usually very rapidly oxidised to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is harmful to health. NO2 and NO are both oxides of nitrogen and together are referred to as nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Nitrogen dioxide can irritate the lungs and lower resistance to respiratory infections such as influenza. Continued or frequent exposure to concentrations that are typically much higher than those normally found in the ambient air may cause increased incidence of acute respiratory illness in children.